WATCH: Storm Damage in Joliet
A derecho is a widespread, long-lived, straight line wind storm that travels over a great distance, usually hundreds of miles.
Hundreds of thousands of people are without power throughout Illinois due to the storms. ComEd said as of 10 p.m. approximately 560,000 customers are still without power, and they have restored power to 260,000 more customers. ComEd said it expects it will take multiple days to restore service to all customers affected by the storm, and that customers should take whatever steps they feel are necessary to keep themselves and their families safe.
There are reports of a brief tornado in Rogers Park, which may have moved off into Lake Michigan and turned into a water spout. The National Weather Service has not yet confirmed those reports.
On Chicago's North Side, downed wires hit water and started a fire near Sheffield and Marcy, and in Lincoln Park a massive tree was uprooted.
WATCH: High winds down signs, trees, damage buildings
Ray Velasquez came home to an uprooted mess, a tree that was there when he moved in 30 years ago ripped from the ground.
"I'm just fortunate that nobody was home. It would have been scary anyways, even if there was no bodily harm," he said.
WATCH: Storm downs massive tree in Lincoln Park
On Old Irving Park Road a crumpled, damaged sign slowed down traffic. A few miles away, around Cullom and Kedvale, the neighborhood was littered with huge trees and branches snapped like toothpicks.
"We had maybe 50 people come out of nowhere," said Ian Woodbury, who was helping to clean up. "First it was about 20 people and then it grew to about 50 to 60 people, coming around and sawing."
"I saw fences flying, everything, it was crazy," said Aziz Bayoueh, neighbor. "We started sawing trees down, this whole area was blocked. You could see trees split in half."
The ferocious winds blew apart a roof just north of Addison and Lake Shore Drive, and in Chinatown firefighters worked to make sure a roof didn't collapse completely.
In Roscoe Village trees snapped, roofs were damaged and fences were ripped from the round. People's Gas crews examined the storm damage in the 4700-block of North Paulina where a car was stuck under a downed tree.
In Plainfield and Joliet, police received multiple calls about power lines and trees down, as well as flooding, car crashes and road blockages.
Winds over 80 miles per hour have been recorded.
In River Grove, mature trees around 70 to 80 years old were shredded by the winds, leaving debris scattered all over the streets and blocking intersections.
"This is probably one of the worst I've seen in my 40 years here," said John Bjorvik, River Grove Public Works Supervisor.
Rozalie Andreychuk hid in her basement with her grandchildren.
"It was just like five to seven minutes of horrible wind," she said.
Her fear reminded her of the 1987 Armenian earthquake, when she survived hours in rubble.
"It was the same scared thing, but it is surprising; you do not have enough time to be scared," she said.
The fear also ran rampant through nearby Villa Park, where trees came down on cars and streets, and tore apart roofs. There were no reports of injuries there or in River Grove.
In Westchester, crews cleared debris from the streets; downed branches and parts of trees. At least one tree, judging by the char marks left behind, was likely struck by lightning, officials said.
"I was upstairs and I heard a big pop, just like that," said Carol Safelover, Westchester resident.
Safelover said she heard what sounded like a transformer blowing out when the wind and rain hit, but there was no damage to her home.
"Very thankful because we saw it blowing and it was like 'Oh my gosh!'" she said.
WATCH: Transformer explodes in Westchester
At Cermak and Boeger, a large tree fell in the front yard of Vicky Deanching's homes.
"We feel so lucky because it never touched my house," Deanching said.
In nearby Hillside, police said the winds may have blown out the windows at the Walgreens on 22nd.
The steeple of College Church in west suburban Wheaton was knocked over by powerful gusts.
"My wife Jen grew up going to this church and her parents go to this church and so it's such a landmark in the town so it's kind of devastating for the town to see this happening," said Jeff Otterby, Wheaton resident.
Pastor Josh Moody reassured his congregation this will be a unifier for church members.
"The Church is not the building the Church is about Christ, it's about the people and we have a great message of hope," he said.
No one was injured.
Called a derecho, the rare wind storm with power similar to an inland hurricane swept across the Midwest, blowing over trees, flipping vehicles, causing widespread property damage and leaving tens of thousands of homes without power.
The derecho lasted several hours as it tore across eastern Nebraska, Iowa and parts of Wisconsin and Illinois. A scientist at the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center says the storm had the wind speed of a major hurricane, and likely caused more widespread damage than a normal tornado. Officials in the Iowa cities of Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Marshalltown say the damage is extensive.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.